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English 001 (Rajaram): There There: Annotations

Why a summary?

Writing an annotated bibliography is an excellent way to prepare for a research project. Just collecting sources for a bibliography is useful, but when you have to write annotations or summaries  for each source, you're forced to read each source more carefully.

You begin to read more critically instead of just collecting information--and that's a good thing!

Why so early?

Why bring up citations now, when most people don't write up a list of references until the end of the whole research process?

  1. To remind you to save a ton of time by collecting information about your sources as you are researching
  2. Let you know that many library databases will create an MLA or APA citation for you. See the box "Automatically Create Citations in Library Databases."


An annotation is a summary and/or evaluation. Depending on your project or the assignment, your annotations may do one or more of the following:

Summarize: Some annotations merely summarize the source. What are the main arguments? What is the point of this book or article? What topics are covered? If someone asked what this article/book is about, what would you say? The length of your annotations will determine how detailed your summary is.

 Assess: After summarizing a source, it may be helpful to evaluate it. Is it a useful source? How does it compare with other sources in your bibliography? Is the information reliable? Is this source biased or objective? What is the goal of this source?

 Reflect: Once you've summarized and assessed a source, you need to ask how it fits into your research. Was this source helpful to you? How does it help you shape your argument? How can you use this source in your research project? Has it changed how you think about your topic?


MLA Annotation

Lamott, Anne. Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. New York: Anchor Books, 1995. Print.


Lamott's book offers honest advice on the nature of a writing life, complete with its insecurities and failures. Taking a humorous approach to the realities of being a writer, the chapters in Lamott's book are wry and anecdotal and offer advice on everything from plot development to jealousy, from perfectionism to struggling with one's own internal critic. In the process, Lamott includes writing exercises designed to be both productive and fun.

More examples

See the OWL at Purdue for more examples: